Is Soy Sauce Gluten Free? Usually not, but there are alternatives, from gluten-free soy sauce to tamari. Let’s have a look at the risks, alternatives, cross-contamination, and more!
If there’s one way to pack umami into a dish, soy sauce is the answer. Soy sauce is a staple in Asian cuisine, but it’s also a popular ingredient all around the world, known for its unique, briny flavor.
If you’re new to going gluten-free, you might be wondering whether or not this beloved condiment is on the list of foods that are safe to eat. And the answer, unfortunately, is that most soy sauce out there is not gluten-free. Traditional versions contain wheat, and as a result, are unsafe for gluten-free diets.
But don’t despair! The good news is, gluten-free soy sauce exists, as do other alternatives. Let’s take a deeper dive into soy sauce, including how it’s made, gluten-free options, things to look out for, and whether it’s safe for those with celiac disease.
Related: Is Rice Gluten-Free?
So, you might be thinking, what even is umami? Umami is actually one of the five basic tastes, which include salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. The fifth taste, umami, is the Japanese name for savoriness, though it directly translates to “deliciousness”.
And it is delicious: umami is a savory, rich, and complex flavor, often described as meaty. Soy sauce is a wonderful way to impart umami into all sorts of food, found in recipes like Teriyaki Sauce and Chicken Fried Rice.
Traditional soy sauce is made by fermenting soybeans and crushed wheat in a salty brine. As a result, many brands of regular and low-sodium soy sauce on the market contain wheat and aren’t safe for gluten sensitivities. It’s an ingredient found in certain foods with gluten that takes many people by surprise!
So, if traditional soy sauce is a no-go, what are the alternatives? If you’re still looking to impart deliciousness to your favorite gluten-free Asian-inspired meals, below are some common choices:
Some varieties, like Kikkoman Gluten Free Soy Sauce, are brewed with rice instead of wheat. This makes it safe for those with gluten intolerances.
Another variety of soy sauce, tamari is fermented with only soy. While Japanese tamari traditionally contains traces of wheat, most tamari sold in the US, like San-J Tamari, is naturally gluten-free. Of course, if you’re unsure, always refer to a product’s labels.
Coconut aminos are a naturally gluten-free alternative to soy sauce made from coconut blossom sap and salt. It contains a bunch of amino acids and the taste is very similar to soy sauce.
Unless a brand of soy sauce or tamari is labeled or certified gluten-free, it’s best to double-check the ingredients list. Ingredients to look out for are wheat, barley, and rye, as well as malts, extracts, and flavorings that may contain hidden gluten.
As with other “naturally gluten-free” foods like rice and oats (see Are Oats Gluten Free?), occasionally, contact with gluten takes place behind the scenes. This can happen during harvest, during processing, or on the production line in facilities that also handle wheat products. This is known as cross-contamination, and it can be risky for those with gluten sensitivities, particularly those with celiac disease.
If trace amounts of gluten or cross-contamination pose a risk, it’s best to look for products that are either certified or otherwise labeled gluten-free. Of course, always consult with your healthcare provider to know which precautions you should take.
If you’re severely sensitive to gluten, or if you’re celiac, stick to certified gluten-free soy sauce or a 100% naturally gluten-free alternative, like tamari or coconut aminos. Always double-check labels and do your due diligence to ensure that the product you use doesn’t have hidden gluten or risks of cross-contamination (see above). And again, if you’re unsure, speak to your doctor.
To summarize, while traditional soy sauce is not gluten-free, there are plenty of options available that are safe to eat. Alternatives like tamari (or coconut aminos) are a great way to give your favorite dishes a jolt of umami flavor! Try it in my recipes for Asian Grilled Chicken, Kung Pao Cauliflower, and Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps. You’ll be soy glad that you did.
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